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The Importance Of Never Giving Up: Or, Bowling and how it shaped me into the person I am today

You must not be a golfer.

Today I wanted to share a story that comes somewhat from a place of vulnerability.

The idea of never giving up. Why It’s Important To Never Give Up. That famous quote by Jimmy Valvano from 1993 still rings true today.

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

Simple, yet profound.

Now, I don’t believe this is a cliche topic, and I’ll explain why. Growing up, we tend to take a lot of things for granted: Our health, basic necessities, a roof over our heads, recreational enjoyment, money, a job, etc.

If we were raised by good parents, these things weren’t really even thought about. Back when I still lived at home with Mom and Dad, I didn’t worry about much. Most everything was provided for me.

I went to school and went to work, but that was about it. It seemed as though I had all the time in the world.

Most of that time was spent in my room making beats and getting lost in music. It was a great period in my life. I had everything I could ever want or need: A drum pad, studio monitors, headphones, and a turntable. I used the money from work to pay for these luxuries, and I felt good about it.

My old room. My parents have since sold the house 🙁

Life was great. I went crate digging at my local thrift store and brought home piles and piles of records for 25 cents a pop.

Many of those samples came from artists that have long since been forgotten about. With a lot of them, I was able to craft something fresh and unique. It’s always fun to pay essentially nothing for a Johnny Mathis record. There’s really nothing like it.

Still, a good number of them contained some of the worst music I’ve ever heard, from no name artists that never quite panned out. Kind of sad when you think about it. Put simply, there’s a reason why they collect dust in the corner of a big warehouse, even to this day.

The fun of crate digging isn’t discovering the familiar though. I would argue it isn’t really about finding a good sample either.

It’s the very experience that makes it special.

The experience of traveling to the store on a sunny spring morning or afternoon. Thumbing through the records. Being grateful for life. Smelling those smelly smells that smell… smelly. If you’ve ever buried your nose in an old book just to take in those scents, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

And no it’s not weird! XD

#ismellbooksforthethrill

Old vinyl contained in those paper sleeves has that same sort of smell! It really brings you back to simpler times. A lot of those old records make me think of my late Grandparents back in Smithtown, NY.

They evoke a sense of nostalgia that makes the activity worth doing. Thinking about how far those records traveled before I found them, and how many people before me had them in their possession is incredibly humbling.

It’s like that scene from one of my all time favorite movies, No Country For Old Men. The antagonist Anton Chigurh gives the elderly gas station attendant some food for thought about the quarter he (Anton)’s using to determine the old man’s fate:

“Do you know what date is on this coin? 1958. It’s been traveling 22 years to get here. And now it’s here, and it’s either heads or tails. And you have to decide, call it.”

By now you may be wondering where I’m going with all of this. Just sit back, relax, and stop asking questions! 😂

Bowling

It was also during this time that I was part of a bowling league near my local community college.

Because I went to school so close by, I could practice nearly every single day before class. It made me think of my Grandmother, who was still alive at the time.

My Grandmother loved bowling.

Whenever my family and I would visit her and my Grandpa in New York, she made it a point that we all go bowling together. She was really good!

In the late ’90s I was only a beginner, but she saw a natural ability in me. At that time I used a house ball and threw it straight down the lane (like most people). Still, I had good form and routinely bowled games over 100. Pretty good for a NOOB.

Grandma and I had a sort of unspoken rivalry going on 😉 Though she would never come out and say it, she was a fierce competitor at heart. A lot of that rubbed off on me, but back then I was a lot more easily discouraged, a theme that will be addressed in this article.

I remember her giving me a newspaper clipping from one of the local high schools in Smithtown around 2004. It told the story of a young, awkward-looking basketball player who was judged on his appearance and not on his abilities.

Though discouraged, he refused to quit on himself and eventually became a starter for the team after battling others’ perceptions of him and riding the bench most of the time.

You can bet I keep that framed on my mantle to this day. I too was an awkward-looking teen, and very skinny when I started high school in 2001. I was 6’1 or so and around 120 lbs. You can imagine how much I got made fun of growing up. I was accused of being a concentration camp survivor and was constantly teased by friends, acquaintances, and enemies alike.

Yep, that’s me in August of 2001. A bodybuilder in the making. XD

Make no mistake, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. Even despite the way I was treated, I maintained a generally positive outlook on life and for the most part didn’t let it bother me too much. Still, if I told you it didn’t hurt me on the inside at times, I’d be lying.

I wasn’t very attractive to girls and never actually had a girlfriend in high school. During my senior year, I met and fell in love with someone whom I still remember fondly, but that’s a story for another day.

Circa 2003 with my beloved Grandparents.

Just the fact that my grandmother thought about me enough to try and encourage me through those difficult times is something I will be forever grateful for. Her ongoing positivity in my life helped to shape who I am today.

Likewise, my own mother as well. She’s written many letters to me over the years – encouraging me to push through and accomplish things and believed in me when I really didn’t believe in myself.

I ended up graduating from a 4-year university with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design (3.2 GPA) even when I didn’t really want to (if I’m being honest). I was never really cut out for “school” if that makes sense. I’ve always been extremely independent and tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

Circa 1995. I rest my case.

I can honestly say that it was solely because of her encouragement through one single note that I was able to push through and finish. I still have it right next to my Grandmother’s newspaper clipping as a reminder to never give up, even when I sometimes feel it.

2009

As mentioned earlier, in 2009 I started bowling at my local Buffaloe Lanes. After a lot of practice on weekdays before night class, I decided to join a league.

It was during this time that I bought a Brunswick beginner bowling ball and had it custom-fitted to my hand. I also bought shoes and a bag, which I still have to this day.

It was during those evenings that I practiced throwing what’s known in bowling as a hook.

Instead of the ball traveling straight down the lane, you throw it so it curves back into the pocket and knocks down all the pins – the way in which they were meant to fall.

I think of it as a domino effect.

If you hit the pocket just right, the ball moves through the pins in a carefully calculated manner, ensuring every pin is hit at just the right angle and speed. This basically causes them to fall almost instantaneously.

It not only creates more strikes but also easier spare pickups as well. Learning how to do this in practice was not easy, but it was one of the most exciting things I’ve personally ever experienced once I finally got the hang of it.

Getting into that rhythm is almost a universal theme that could be applied to any activity that requires practice to master. It’s like being on cloud 9.

I started out slow, but quickly began to pick up steam; bowling high games of 254 and 267, with many other 200 games sprinkled in. I won a couple of house awards, including the 550 and 600 series, and was starting to get pretty decent. I carried an average of 175 in league before things began to spiral.

“It’s a league game, Smokey.”

Interestingly enough, it all began when my grandmother came all the way down to Raleigh, NC to visit for my birthday in December of 2009.

She was so excited to see me play, but I ended up having the worst 3-game series that I’ve ever had in my bowling career. I wanted to do well for her so badly that it caused me to do the exact opposite. In sports, they call this the “Yips.”

What basically happens is that you forget how to play: whether in Baseball, Basketball, Golf, Bowling, etc.

Some guys can’t throw the ball to first base.

Some guys forget how to hit the ball.

Some guys forget how to pitch (Rick Ankiel).

Some guys, like in the case of former MLB catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, couldn’t even throw the ball BACK TO THE PITCHER. The struggle is real. XD

In my case, I forgot how to throw the bowling ball for strikes and started overthinking every minute detail, to the point where most of my balls ended up in the gutter or didn’t cut back enough to hit the pocket with the sort of ferocity that resulted in a powerful explosion of pins. It was truly an awful feeling and a classic case of getting completely psyched out.

The worst is when you throw the ball but your thumb gets stuck (causing you to basically look like an idiot – use your imagination). It’s happened to some of the best bowlers I’ve seen play at that lane. I’ve seen one of the best bowlers in the league actually fall down after it happened to him! This is a guy who averaged something like 206-210. Completely embarrassing, but kind of funny too. Thankfully I never actually fell. XD

Even though I felt pretty awful about my lackluster performance during my Grandma’s visit, she told me not to worry about it and that she understood why it happened. It’s why I always loved and appreciated her so much. She was always in my corner no matter what.

Unfortunately, as time went on, my frustrations in bowling continued.

I would bowl a really good game and then bowl horribly for a few games. It was enough to make me extremely angry and frustrated inside; almost as if I was betrayed, by myself.

I couldn’t figure out why I had all of a sudden forgotten how to throw the ball. In a sense, it was completely demoralizing. It made me doubt myself at an incredibly deep level.

It reached a boiling point when, after one particularly rough game, I stormed outside in a rage. I walked to the side of the building and threw my keys against the brick wall so hard that the ignition key broke into a few pieces. Yeah, you heard me correctly; I couldn’t get home. XD

Some time later, I was on the lanes again and having another sub-par game. My team was facing a really good team, and one of them, in particular, happened to be a guy I had been conversing a lot with in the weeks previously.

This was another player averaging 200+ that made it look really, really easy. He didn’t even give it much of a second thought. Strike after strike after strike. It looked like he wasn’t even trying. He’d casually stroll back to his seat with one of those arrogant smirks on his face, every time.

He was basically trying to coach me out of my funk, but I wasn’t having it. I started getting down on myself and discouraged, instead of trusting in my abilities and knowing that I was a good bowler. I was only 22 at the time, but I had basically given up. By season’s end, my average had dipped from 175 all the way down to about 147 if I remember correctly.

I’ll never forget what he said to me that night:

“You’re a quitter.”

Ouch. Tell me how you really feel, brah. I brushed it off at the time, but it was a complete punch to the gut. Here was a relatively friendly guy basically challenging me to have a more positive outlook on my situation, and I simply wouldn’t do it…

At the time.

Looking back, I can honestly tell you that those three words may have been the most important ever spoken to me in my life.

Yes, it was crushing at the time. I wasn’t really the same after it happened. I graduated from that particular college (Wake Tech) in 2010 and haven’t really bowled much since then. Every once in a while I would find myself at a lane for various reasons: Work gatherings, a birthday here and there, etc. But the fire to bowl like I used to was simply not there.

I would like to get back into it at some point, but life is much different nowadays. It’s harder to schedule those blocks of time now that I’m a lot older and have more obligations to tend to.

Still, those words have stuck with me for over 10 years.

The Good News?

Well, aside from Jesus being my Lord and savior, I’m not a quitter. Haha, see what I did there?

I don’t get easily discouraged now in my older age. I’m a fighter. I battle daily to maintain a positive outlook in everything I do.

I didn’t let his words define my life. I made a decision to rise above it. I used it as fuel to not become what he said I was, in anything: business-related or otherwise. I have nothing against him. In fact, if I ever see him again I will thank him profusely for lighting that fire under me.

In 2014 I started Home Studio Basics. In 2017 I began my YouTube channel, this website, and left my 9-5 job to pursue my dream of working from home full time doing the things that I love. In short, I help others. They come to me for advice and guidance. I’ve developed my skills in areas that I thought would wane over time. I challenge myself daily to be a better designer, artist, writer, and YouTuber.

It wasn’t easy, and still isn’t. I still battle through self-doubt and sometimes even my abilities. Being completely self reliant and self-employed is not always sunshine and rainbows. It’s hard. It challenges you in ways that sometimes make you want to quit and be just another cog in the wheel.

But I wasn’t born for that. That’s been clear from the start. It was just a matter of realizing the potential that I had inside of me. I’m still realizing it on a day-to-day basis. As humans, we’re always a work in progress.

I wouldn’t trade all of the struggles I’ve endured in my business for the world. Working for yourself is one of those things that is truly priceless. A blessing from God.

At the end of the day, I know I’m on the right path. I’m an artist at heart and always have been.

If you’re reading this, I would like to encourage you to not give up. If you truly believe in something, fight for it.

Because at the end of your life, no one’s really going to care that you spent a bunch of time in a cushy office or did some job that you didn’t really like.

This may not be you specifically, but for so many others in the world, this is their reality. It’s grim and depressing to think about people that never really pursued the things that made them truly happy. The things they are most passionate about. The things they get excited about. I can tell you first hand, there is absolutely nothing exciting about a minimum wage job, and I’ve had plenty of them.

“We gonna work, and keep workin’, we never get tired. When you own a company, you can never get fired.”

-Jadakiss (Chayse – Ignatius, 2020)

If anyone remembers me, it will be because I fought for the things I believed in. That I didn’t give up, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

I would encourage you to do the same.

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